WASHINGTON DC (FDI) -- With his hands tied behind his back, 36-year-old Mr. Liu Yonglai lay naked and shivering on the floor. The smell of burning flesh was in the air.
After dousing Liu's body with ice-cold water to intensify the electric currents, several labor camp guards shocked his body with electric nightsticks -- each of which emits a 36,000-volt charge -- targeting sensitive parts of the body such as the mouth, neck, anus and genitalia.
In the hallway just outside, other victims lay moaning or vomiting from similar torture.
On the other side of the camp, 60-year-old Ms. Fu Shuying, 27-year-old Ms. Chen Hui and 30-year-old Ms. Sun Yan are tied up in a spread-eagle position as torturers repeatedly thrust long rods into their vaginas causing severe inflammations and bleeding. Other women suffer similar tortures with toilet and shoe brushes.
This is the Dalian Labor Camp in China, one of hundreds where Chinese police and guards are under orders from the Communist Party's highest authorities to use "any means necessary" to coerce practitioners of the traditional Chinese meditation, Falun Gong, to renounce their faith, and swear allegiance to the Party line.
For Mr. Liu, Ms. Fu and countless others, should they survive their "re-education," there will be no justice under China's judicial system. In fact, for many of the 100 million people in China who practice Falun Gong, China's judicial system is one of several state organs used to carry out a 5-year-old persecution that many human rights lawyers are calling genocide.
Halfway around the world, however, hope -- or at least hope's beginnings -- can be found on the front steps of the United States Supreme Court where the fate of a class-action lawsuit against China's former leader Jiang Zemin now rests.
A Landmark Case
In October of 2002, practitioners of Falun Gong filed a class action lawsuit against former Communist Party Chief, Jiang Zemin, the man who "mobilized a Mao-era mass movement against [Falun Gong]" according to CNN's Senior China Analyst, Willy Lam.
The District Court for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed the case based on a suggestion of immunity filed by the United States' Department of State. This suggestion, however, was based upon their characterization of the former Party chief as the legitimate leader of the People's Republic of China, despite the fact that his Mao-era tactics rival those of the Nazis in the Second World War, the Bosnians in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. The Seventh Circuit subsequently affirmed the District Court's decision -- notwithstanding the fact that the defendant stepped down from Communist Party and government posts shortly after the case was filed.
Yet, the policy upon which the Department of State based their opposition to this lawsuit is fast fading from the American stage. Tyranny -- as indicated recently in Mark Palmer's "The Real Axis of Evil" is a breeding ground for the kind of terrorism we experienced on September 11, 2001, and a recipe for disaster if left unchecked.
In his book, Palmer -- a former U.S. Ambassador and 26-year veteran of the U.S. State Department -- puts forth a blueprint foreign policy manual on how to rid the world of the last remaining dictators: A collection of 45 leaders Mr. Palmer calls "the world's 45 least wanted."
The Wall Street Journal called Mr. Palmer's book, "One of the best but least noticed books among all the tomes addressing the quest for peace in the post-Sept. 11 era."
For his "eradication" policy against Falun Gong and implementing other human rights atrocities, Palmer places China's Jiang Zemin among the worst of them.
Attorney for the plaintiffs, Dr. Terri Marsh, agrees. "The defendant will go down in history as one of the most unscrupulous men of the twentieth century, a man who tortured and murdered thousands upon thousands of adherents of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice based on the moral and spiritual principles of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance," Dr. Marsh says. Apart from the fact that Jiang was never legitimately elected to office, as is required in China by the Constitution, Dr. Marsh argues that such "least wanted" as Jiang Zemin, Saddam Hussein, Adolph Hitler and the Khmer Rouge are per se not legitimate heads of state due to the magnitude of their crimes against humanity.
International human rights lawyers agree, and have, one-by-one, set off a worldwide chain-reaction of lawsuits against Jiang -- in countries such as Belgium, Spain, France, Ireland, Canada, Iceland, Switzerland, South Africa, Greece, Korea and Taiwan.
According to Theresa Chu, the lawyer responsible for the filing of many of these cases against Jiang Zemin, together they comprise the "biggest international human rights case since WWII."
On February 7, 2005, the U.S. case against Jiang was submitted to the Supreme Court.
According to Dr. Marsh, it is in the vital interests of the United States to bring the defendant to justice. "A dismissal of this case," she says, "undermines the entire framework of Nuremberg and the principles upon which our nation was founded. Moreover, the Seventh Circuit's opinion stands alone among the circuits in holding that a (legitimate or illegitimate) former leader's crimes of genocide and torture can be considered protected and immune."
An American Testament
Even in the infancy of the United States as a nation, the country's role in the protection of a rule of law and human rights abroad was well understood. In 1775, Alexander Hamilton wrote, "The sacred rights of mankind are written by the hand of divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power." According to the Massachusetts's resolution of October of 1765, "there are certain essential rights which are founded in the law of God and nature, and are the common rights of mankind." Thus, in the Declaration of Independence, the founding fathers state that all persons are "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights." These rights include the right to govern oneself and to follow one's spiritual faith and practice freely.
As Senators Lieberman, McCain and Congressmen Wolf, and Lantos indicated in their recently introduced pro-democracy bill, the United States' foreign policy must be based on the support of these rights and of a rule of law everywhere. According to Senator Lieberman, "over the past thirty years legitimate political authority based on the consent of the governed has taken its rightful place. But still tyranny thrives in too many places in the world."
The Right to Claim Protection of the Law
Chief Justice Marshal stated in 1803 (in Marbury v. Madison) when human rights had already received the attention of our courts: "the very essence of civil liberty consists in the right of every individual to claim protection of the law when he receives an injury." Again, in another case before the Supreme Court, The Schooner Amistad, counsel made the argument that persons held as slaves on board a vessel that was later taken to our shores must be set free or the U.S. executive and judicial branches would become complicitors in the deprivation of fundamental human rights. In response, the United States Supreme Court ordered that the former captives be set free, noting that the issue must be decided upon eternal principles of justice and international law.
In 1980 the Executive Branch made clear that the Alien Tort Claim Act, enacted into law in 1789, permits aliens to sue in U.S. Courts for torture and other crimes against humanity. In 1992, the Torture Victim Protection Act was enacted into law by the United States Congress to protect victims of torture around the globe. According to President Bush, who signed the bill into law, in spite of his administration's concern of potential interference with U.S. foreign policy, "this legislation is important because it maintains and strengthens our commitment to ensuring that human rights are everywhere respected."
For Mr. Liu, Ms. Fu and others lying naked and bleeding on the Dalian Labor Camp floor, that the U.S. remain firmly committed to the cause of liberty around the world could mean the difference between life and death. Indeed, millions throughout China are hopeful that the Court's deliberations about this case will be grounded in the founding principles of our nation. Thomas Jefferson knew that the Republic he helped create would lead the world by example. What better example could there be than to faithfully protect the rights of the world's people to be free from the shackles of tyranny and torture?
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